Posts Tagged ‘Kim Jong Un’

Tillerson: My failure if US resorts to force on North Korea — Washington is doing all it can to force North Korea to negotiate its nuclear disarmament

December 12, 2017


© AFP | US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is optimistic that economic and diplomatic sanctions can force North Korea to the negotiating table

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Secretary of State Rex Tillerson expressed confidence Tuesday that Washington is doing all it can to force North Korea to negotiate its nuclear disarmament.And he added that if diplomacy and sanctions fail and the US military is forced to take pre-emptive action, it will have been a personal failure.

“You know, we can only do our part in this, and the regime in Pyongyang is going to have to come to some decision about their future,” Tillerson said.

The United States has mobilized the world community to impose stringent economic and diplomatic sanctions on Kim Jong-un’s regime to halt its nuclear drive.

But Pyongyang has continued to test ever more powerful ballistic missiles and boasts it can now target the US mainland with its nuclear arsenal.

Washington has pledged to deliver a denuclearized Korean peninsula, but the strategy hinges on China maintaining pressure and Kim agreeing to talk.

“We want them to make the right choice, which is to stop and say: ‘Let’s sit down to talk about it’,” Tillerson said, in a year end speech to staff.

“Because if they keep going, they can cross a point at which there’s nothing left for us in the diplomatic community to do,” he warned.

“We’ve done everything we can do, as we don’t want to get to that point,” he said, stressing that he works closely with US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis.

“And I’ve said to my partner Secretary Mattis many times: ‘If we get there, I’ve failed. And I don’t want to fail’,” he promised.


Leaders needed to fix global ‘mess’, says Kofi Annan

December 12, 2017


© AFP | “Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” UN chiefs Kofi Annan told AFP in an exclusive interview ahead of Tuesday’s climate talks in Paris.


Former UN chiefs Kofi Annan and Ban Ki-moon have lashed out at the state of global leadership in the age of Donald Trump, warning a nuclear war could be triggered by accident.

“Honestly speaking, we are in a mess,” Annan told AFP in an interview ahead of Tuesday’s climate talks in Paris.

“In the past when we went through this sort of crisis, you had leaders who had the courage and the vision to want to take action, to understand that they needed to work with others,” he said.

At a time of growing US isolationism — Trump has announced plans to leave the Paris climate deal agreed two years ago on this day — Annan urged leaders to cooperate better on fighting terrorism, migration and global warming.

“Today, leaders are going in the wrong direction,” he said. “Leaders are withdrawing.”

He expressed particular concern over escalating tensions with North Korea, warning: “One miscalculation, one mistake and we are all victims”.

“It may not be a deliberate decision to start a nuclear war,” he added, adding that inflammatory rhetoric — without mentioning Trump or North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un by name — was not helping.

Ban, who like Annan spoke to AFP as part of The Elders group of senior statesmen and women, blasted Trump’s climate stance as “politically short-sighted and misguided”.

“The richest and most powerful country” in the world is disengaging from a historic deal that “even countries like Syria” have signed, Ban said.

“We are seeing more and more troubles and conflicts still continuing, because of the lack of global commitment and global vision,” he added.

– Step forward, Macron? –

Lakhdar Brahimi, the former UN Syria envoy who joined the interview with former Irish president Mary Robinson and Norway’s first female premier Gro Harlem Brundtland, said Europe could step into the bigger global role vacated by Trump — at least in the Middle East.

French President Emmanuel Macron in particular, he suggested, appears willing to shoulder more responsibility: this week’s climate talks are his latest bid to play a lead role in global affairs.

“I think Europe certainly has a role and a capacity to play a role, and the important leaders in Europe. Definitely one of them is President Macron,” Brahimi told AFP.

The United States has “absolutely” disqualified itself as a broker in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, he added.

“They have now announced with this statement ‘We are not going to mediate anymore’. And the thing is, I think someone should step in because this problem is not going to go away.”

As a new round of peace talks gets under way in Geneva this week, Brahimi — who like Annan quit as the UN’s Syria envoy in frustration over years of deadlock — said he hoped this time things might be different.

“I think we have come now much closer to the realisation that indeed there is no military solution. There is some hope there,” he said.

“The other thing is that there was fear that Syria would break up as a country. It does seem that the unity of Syria can be preserved if people really start working for a political solution.”

US, Japan and South Korea launch two-day ‘missile tracking’ drills

December 11, 2017

RT — Russia Today

US, Japan & S. Korea launch two-day ‘missile tracking’ drills

USS Stethem © US Navy

Washington, Seoul and Tokyo have have begun joint “missile tracking” drills, South Korea’s military said. The new round of military exercises comes just days after the US and its allies concluded the largest ever air maneuvers over the peninsula.

The exercises kicked off Monday amid speculation that North Korea may soon test launch a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM), South Korea’s military announced, according to the Yonhap news agency.

Two US Aegis destroyers – USS Stethem and USS Decatur – are leading the war games along with South Korea’s Seoae Ryu Seong Ryong Aegis destroyer, and Japan’s Chokai Aegis vessel. During the exercises, the three navies aim to polish their skills at detecting and tracking potential ballistic missiles using a computer-simulated training module.

The drills which are hosted by Japan will conclude Tuesday, December 12, and are aimed at increasing the allies’ ability to respond to the North Korean threat, Japan’s Navy said in a press release.

The allied navies will be “practicing tracking an object and sharing information on it among the three countries,” a Japanese defense official told AFP, adding that the simulations “will translate into a measure against ballistic missiles.”

The S. Korean and Japanese military said the current activities are the sixth of its kind to take place in the last two years.

“(We) are keeping a close eye on North Korea’s missile facilities,” a South Korean defense official told Yonhap. “There has been no indication detected of any imminent provocation, but we are fully prepared for a response.”

The new round of military exercises near N. Korean borders began just days after the US-S.Korean Vigilant Ace drills concluded Friday. A total of 12,000 personnel and over 230 military aircraft took part in the maneuvers which also included the deployment of a B-1B bomber as well as F-22 and F-35 stealth fighters. The exercises have been slammed by Pyongyang, which said it proves that US President Donald Trump is “begging” for nuclear war.

North Korea has repeatedly criticized the joint drills between the US and South Korea. Last month, the North’s ambassador to the UN ruled out negotiations with Washington, citing America’s “hostile policy” against his country and the continuing joint activities of Washington and Seoul. Russia and China have long urged the US and North Korea to accept their proposed “double freeze” plan which would see Pyongyang suspend its nuclear and ballistic missile tests in exchange for a pause in joint US-South Korea drills. That proposal, however, has firmly been rejected by the US.

See also:

North Korean Submarine Missile Threat Prompts U.S.-Led Military Drills


A photo released by North Korea’s state news agency in April 2016 purported to show a submarine-launched ballistic missile test. Credit Korean Central News Agency, via European Pressphoto Agency

N. Korea condemns ‘dotard’ Trump over Jerusalem — calling it a “reckless, wicked act”

December 9, 2017
© KCNA VIS KNS/AFP | North Korea condemned US President Donald Trump’s decision Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv, calling it a “reckless, wicked act”

 SEOUL (AFP) – North Korea has lambasted US President Donald Trump for recognising Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, renewing its description of him as a “dotard” in a statement released Saturday on state media.

Trump and North Korea’s leader Kim Jong-Un have traded threats of war and personal insults in recent months as tensions remain high over the North’s missile and nuclear threats.

Now the hermit state has joined near-universal condemnation of the US president’s decision on Jerusalem, calling it a “reckless, wicked act”.

“Considering the fact that the mentally deranged dotard openly called for a total destruction of a sovereign state at the UN, this action is not so surprising”, a foreign ministry spokesman was quoted as saying by the state-run KCNA news agency.

“But this move clearly shows to the whole world who is the destroyer of world peace and security, pariah and rogue in the international community”, he said, using epithets usually reserved for the North.

Trump’s declaration Wednesday to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the US embassy from Tel Aviv sparked anger across the Muslim world, and drew expressions of concern and disapproval from US allies.

Trump has previously warned Pyongyang of “fire and fury”, telling the UN General Assembly that Washington would “totally destroy North Korea” if it had to defend itself or its allies.

Trump dubbed Kim “Rocket Man” in the same speech — Pyongyang has tested missiles apparently capable of reaching much of the US mainland — and days later Kim responded with a personal statement calling him a “dotard”, an obscure term for a weak or senile old man.

According to the latest KCNA statement, the North “strongly condemns” the US move to recognise Jerusalem as capital, and expressed “firm support and solidarity for Palestinians and Arab peoples struggling to win their legitimate rights”.

“The US will be held accountable for all consequences from this reckless, wicked act”, it added.

Russia says North Korea is ready for direct nuclear talks with the US

December 8, 2017

Sergei Lavrov, Russian foreign minister, meets Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, in Vienna CREDIT:TASS VIA GETTY IMAGES

North Korea is open to coming to the table for direct talks with the US over its nuclear ambitions, Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, told his American counterpart Rex Tillerson on Thursday.

The message was delivered to Mr Tillerson during an international conference in the Austrian capital, Vienna, but there was no immediate response from the state department which has long insisted that North Korea be willing to denuclearise as a condition for talks.

“We know that North Korea wants above all to talk to the United States about guarantees for its security. We are ready to support that, we are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” Mr Lavrov said at an international conference in Vienna, according to the Interfax news agency.

“Our American colleagues, [including] Rex Tillerson, have heard this.”

Mr Lavrov’s apparent offer coincided with a meeting between Jeffrey Feltman, United Nations political affairs chief, and Ri Yong-ho, North Korean foreign minister, during the first UN trip to Pyongyang in six years.

The diplomatic overtures come amid heightened tension between the US and North Korea after the hermit kingdom tested its “most powerful” intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) to date last week, claiming that it could strike the US mainland.

America and neighbouring South Korea responded with a show of force this week, conducting their largest ever joint air force drill, involving 12,000 US service members, and F-22 Raptors and F-35 stealth fighters training close to the border with the North.

Although Washington stressed that the joint operation was a routine annual exercise, North Korea warned on Wednesday that the outbreak of war had become “an established fact.”

But despite its overt bellicose statements, early indications that Pyongyang may be ready for talks with Washington initially emerged after a Russian parliamentary delegation paid a visit to the North Korean leadership from November 27 to December 1.

According to the TASS news agency, Vitaly Pashin, a member of Russia’s lower house, reported back that the North Koreans would be willing to go to the table with Moscow as a mediator between the two sides.

Pyongyang had complained to the Russian delegation about “regular external aggression” on the part of the US, using this as a justification for its latest ICBM test, he said.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a potato flour factory
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un visits a potato flour factory CREDIT: KCNA VIA REUTERS

The North Koreans claimed that they “had refrained from military provocations for 75 days awaiting reciprocal steps from the US, which, instead of meeting [North Korea] halfway, announced large-scale surprise military drills,” Mr Pashin said.

In the face of looming military confrontation, Washington has also reached out informally to Pyongyang over the past year through Joseph Yun, the US special representative for North Korea policy.

The North Koreans walked away from the so-called “New York channel” after US President Donald Trump threatened to ‘totally destroy’ the country in a speech to the UN general assembly in September.

But they have since indicated during a meeting of western experts and officials in Stockholm in late November that they may be open to military to military communication.




North Korea is ready to talk directly to the U.S. about “guarantees for its security” after trading threats of war with President Donald Trump, Russia’s top diplomat has said.

“We are ready to take part in facilitating such negotiations,” said Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, offering the latest indication that Moscow seeks to bill itself as peace broker in the spiraling crisis around North Korea’s nuclear ambitions.

The rogue state has conducted a series of tests this year to declare itself now capable of striking U.S. territory with nuclear missiles.

Read More: Russia is sending its marines on live fire drills near its North Korea border

Speaking after meeting U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Vienna on Thursday, Lavrov said that he had made his American colleagues aware of Russia’s position, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti reports.

Trump has regularly expressed skepticism over engaging in dialogue with North Korea and the diplomatic relationship between Washington and Pyongyang has long been limited. One of the most significant talks between the two sides occurred in 1994 against the wishes of then-President Bill Clinton, as his predecessor Jimmy Carter voluntarily visited Pyongyang to strike a deal with the regime of Kim Il Sung, grandfather of current North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Despite Trump’s rhetoric, Tillerson has vowed to continue the diplomatic effort “until the first bomb drops” and some reports suggest it may not be U.S. reluctance that is holding up the process behind the scenes.

The main U.S. negotiator with North Korea Joseph Yun now has a “broader mandate” in his calls to Pyongyang than before. A senior State Department official told Reuters last month that calls have “not been limited at all, both (in) frequency and substance.”


U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov attend a bilateral meeting during a ministerial council of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Vienna, Austria, December 7, 2017.RONALD ZAK/POOL/REUTERS

This report came less than a month after a North Korean official told CNN that Pyongyang is not willing to meet Washington at a negotiating table. The official did not quash the idea of diplomacy for good but said: “Before we can engage in diplomacy with the Trump administration, we want to send a clear message that the DPRK has a reliable defensive and offensive capability to counter any aggression from the United States.”

Pyongyang has repeatedly made clear that it seeks public recognition by the U.S. of its nuclear status. A summit with top U.S. officials, chaired by another nuclear power such as Russia, could create this impression better than behind-the-scenes talks.

The U.S. administration’s line on North Korea, and what the solution to the crisis around it should be, remains unclear. Late last month, following another missile test, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called for “all countries should sever diplomatic relations with North Korea” and “cut off trade with the regime.”

North Korea says war is inevitable as allies continue war game

December 7, 2017

The Associated Press

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — North Korea says a nuclear war on the Korean Peninsula has become a matter of when, not if, as it continued to lash out at a massive joint military exercise between the United States and South Korea involving hundreds of advanced warplanes.

In comments attributed to an unnamed Foreign Ministry spokesman, North Korea also claimed high-ranked U.S. officials, including CIA Director Mike Pompeo, have further confirmed American intent for war with a series of “bellicose remarks.”

Pompeo said Saturday that U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korean leader Kim Jong Un doesn’t have a good idea about how tenuous his situation is domestically and internationally. The North’s spokesman said Pompeo provoked the country by “impudently criticizing our supreme leadership which is the heart of our people.”

“We do not wish for a war but shall not hide from it, and should the U.S. miscalculate our patience and light the fuse for a nuclear war, we will surely make the U.S. dearly pay the consequences with our mighty nuclear force which we have consistently strengthened,” the spokesman said.

The comments were carried by the official Korean Central News Agency late Wednesday, hours after the United States flew a B-1B supersonic bomber over South Korea as part of a massive combined aerial exercise involving hundreds of warplanes. North Korean propaganda is often filled with extreme claims and threats, and the spokesman’s comments were consistent with the tone of previous statements condemning Washington and Seoul.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff said the Guam-based bomber simulated land strikes at a military field near South Korea’s eastern coast during a drill with U.S. and South Korean fighter jets.

“Through the drill, the South Korean and U.S. air forces displayed the allies’ strong intent and ability to punish North Korea when threatened by nuclear weapons and missiles,” the South Korean military said in a statement.

B-1Bs flyovers have become an increasingly familiar show of force to North Korea, which after three intercontinental ballistic missile tests has clearly moved closer toward building a nuclear arsenal that could viably target the U.S. mainland.

The five-day drills that began Monday involve more than 200 aircraft, including six U.S. F-22 and 18 F-35 stealth fighters.

North Korea hates such displays of American military might at close range and typically uses strong language to condemn them as invasion rehearsals. It has been particularly sensitive about B-1B bombers, describing them as “nuclear strategic” although the planes were switched to conventional weaponry in the mid-1990s.

Trump’s Big Gamble on Moving the U.S. Embassy to Jerusalem

December 6, 2017

A general view shows part of Jerusalem's Old City and the Dome of the Rock Dec. 5.

A general view shows part of Jerusalem’s Old City and the Dome of the Rock Dec. 5. PHOTO: AMMAR AWAD/REUTERS

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President Donald Trump is expected to make a speech today announcing his decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv. The decision, because of Jerusalem’s disputed status with the Palestinians, could derail a Middle East peace effort that the White House had been working on, and it could also lead to violence across the Middle East, report Felicia Schwartz and Dion Nissenbaum from Washington and Rory Jones in Tel Aviv .

The decision could also reverberate politically. Mr. Trump during the campaign criticized President Barack Obama as not being a good ally to Israel, promising that his administration would reinvigorate an alliance tested by Mr. Obama’s pursuit of a nuclear deal with Iran, a longtime Israeli adversary. The move the president is expected to announce today—while it is at odds with Arab, Palestinian and European leaders who have argued that decisions over the highly sensitive issue of the status of Jerusalem should be made in negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians—would fulfill a campaign pledge.

“We will move the American Embassy to the eternal capital of the Jewish people, Jerusalem,” Mr. Trump told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, one of the largest pro-Israel groups in the U.S. in March 2016, when he was the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination. AIPAC struck a positive tone on Mr. Trump’s decision, tweeting: “It is our long-held position that undivided #Jerusalem is the historic, current and future capital of Israel. We continue to believe that the United States should recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.”

Arab leaders across the Middle East are making last-ditch appeals to the U.S. not to declare Jerusalem as Isreal’s capital. The foreign ministers of Jordan and Egypt have called Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to warn about the dangers of such an announcement. Palestinian leaders had pledged to stop working with the U.S. if Mr. Trump makes any declaration about Jerusalem this week. And Americans have been warned to carefully consider travel plans to Jerusalem’s Old City and the West Bank, citing widespread calls for demonstrations to be held today.

Mr. Trump’s decision on Jerusalem marks a return toward unilateral action after his frustrating year working with Congress, where the push to the repeal the Affordable Care Act stalled and the tax reform effort, which isn’t finished, has yielded changes to the tax code that are unpopular with the public.

With the Jerusalem decision, he is back to changing Washington in the way that seems most effective for him so far in his presidency: acting alone. Through this method, Mr. Trump has scraped the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, announced plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement and charted a new course for the war in Afghanistan. Domestically, he’s rolled back regulations that he says strangle job creation, and placed a ban on travelers from certain countries, which the Supreme Court recently said can, for now, go into effect.

Here’s what else is going on today:


President Trump’s plan to move the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem is a calculated gamble, running the risk of stirring up protests and violence. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib explains why Mr. Trump thinks now is the time to act, when past administrations made similar promises but decided not to act.

From the Washington bureau:

Deutsche Bank received a subpoena earlier in the fall from U.S. special counsel Robert Mueller’s office concerning people or entities affiliated with Mr. Trump, Jenny Strasburg reports, citing a person briefed on the matter. Dan Stein, former chief of the criminal division at the Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office, said the special counsel’s subpoena of Deutsche Bank signals one of two possible directions for the broader investigation. “Either it means they’re going beyond the narrow question of election interference,” Mr. Stein said of Mr. Mueller’s team. Or, he said, it means the question of election interference may now somehow involve the transfer of funds to the president or his family or inner circle. Plus: Mr. Mueller’s office spent $3.2 million in just over four months as it investigated Russian meddling in the 2016 elections and any potential links between Moscow and people associated with Mr. Trump.

U.S. intelligence and military officials believe Kim Jong Un is a rational actor, a conclusion that for now is guiding Washington’s approach to the North Korean leader as he risks economic sanctions and military reprisals to build nuclear weapons and threaten rivals. The assessment by the main components of the U.S. national security community has shaped their thinking toward North Korea in two major ways, Nancy A. Youssef reports.

In Congress: California Republicans are pushing for an income-tax deduction in the final tax bill being worked out by lawmakers in a House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation. The House and Senate bills both repealed the deductions for state and local income and sales taxes, using that money to lower individual tax rates. Interactive: GOP Tax Plan Calculator: Use our calculator, based on the Penn Wharton Budget Model, to find out and also see the possible impact on several representative scenarios. And: A dispute among House Republicans over their year-end strategy forced GOP leaders to delay a vote on a stopgap spending bill, with just a handful of days before a partial government shutdown.

“It seems to me the state has been neither tolerant or respectful” of the baker’s views, Justice Anthony Kennedy said Tuesday when the Supreme Court plunged into a  lively debate on a Colorado baker’s claim that the First Amendment exempts him from state law outlawing discrimination against gay people. Justice Kennedy, a maverick conservative who has written major rulings in favor of gay rights, is widely believed to be the key vote in this case and his skepticism may not be good news for gay-rights activists.

The number of illegal crossings has been falling for years but there was a sharp drop immediately after Mr. Trump took office, suggesting his tough talk on illegal immigration was a factor, Laura Meckler writes. At the same time, The Trump administration ramped up arrests of undocumented immigrants in 2017. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency arrested 143,470 people in 2017, with arrests in the months since President Trump took office up by 40%.

Losing support: Some key GOP centrists supported a Senate tax overhaul that repeals the requirement that most people have health insurance, a move experts say will likely drive up premiums, on the condition that it be swiftly accompanied by a bipartisan measure that aims to lower premiums. That plans fate remains uncertain after some conservative House Republicans said they don’t support it, Stephanie Armour and Kristina Peterson write.

A Senate panel on Tuesday approved a plan to ease the rulebook for regional banks, advancing the most significant bipartisan rollback of financial regulations since postcrisis rules were put in place, writes Andrew Ackerman. The bill, expected to advance through the full Senate in early 2018, eases “the burden on American businesses that are unfairly being treated like the largest companies in our economy,” Senate Banking Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R., Idaho) said ahead of the vote.

State of the GOP: The Republican hierarchy is splitting over the party’s controversial Senate nominee in Alabama, Roy Moore. Polls suggest he may weather sexual misconduct allegations and win the special election Dec. 12. But the Senate campaign committee is continuing to withhold support for Mr. Moore despite the Republican National Committee restoring support for him after Mr. Trump endorsed him this week, writes Janet Hook.

Rep. John Conyers (D., Mich.) resigned from Congress amid sexual misconduct allegations. The race for his seat promises to be a family affair: After the congressman endorsed his son John Conyers III, 27, his great-nephew Ian Conyers, 29, a state senator, said he was running.

The Senate on Tuesday confirmed deputy White House chief of staff Kirstjen Nielsenas President Trump’s choice to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

K.T. McFarland’s nomination to be the next U.S. ambassador to Singapore appeared to be in jeopardy after both Republican and Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill publicly questioned whether she told the truth to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in written testimony earlier this year. Ms. McFarland told the committee she was “not aware” of former national security adviser Michael Flynn‘s contacts with Sergey Kislyak, then the Russian ambassador, but recent reports appear to contradict her claims.

Richard Cordray, the former chief of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, announced he is running for Ohio governor, ending months of speculation over his return to state politics following a tumultuous six-year tenure at the agency, Yuka Hayashi reports.

The appointment of Thomas Barkin, a McKinsey & Co. executive, to lead the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond reinforces a gradual and subtle shift among central bank officials away from dissenters and toward consensus, Nick Timiraos reports.


The International Olympic Committee suspended Russia from the 2018 Winter Olympics for its alleged state-sponsored doping scheme at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, saying it would permit some Russian athletes to compete neutrally by invitation only.

An undocumented Mexican national who was acquitted of murder in the death of a San Francisco woman now faces federal charges in connection with the case.

Harvard moved to end its infamous, unsanctioned final clubs, so-called because they were historically the last of the social clubs a student would join as an undergraduate. Final clubs host exclusive parties in buildings they own around Harvard’s Cambridge, Mass., campus and boast powerful alumni networks. A 2016 report by the school’s Task Force on Sexual Assault Prevention expressed concern about the groups’ “strong sense of sexual entitlement.”

If the $69 billion deal between CVS and Aetna goes through, the health insurer’s CEO, Mark T. Bertolini stands to reap a payout worth $500 million, benefiting from a sizable increase in the value of the stock and rights he owns because of the premium CVS is paying for Aetna.

Premium offers for Fox assets from Disney and Comcast  found a receptive audience in Rupert Murdoch amid concerns about the shifting media landscape. A deal could come as early as next week and could clarify the empire’s leadership structure.

For the second time in as many months, a series of wildfires ripped through California, burning into urban neighborhoods that had not been hit by fire for decades, and forcing tens of thousands of people to flee.


TRUMP ADMINISTRATION: President Donald Trump holds a Cabinet meeting at 11:30 a.m. He gives a statement announcing that he recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital at 1 p.m. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is on foreign travel to Belgium, where he’s participating in North Atlantic Treaty Organization Foreign Ministers meetings. Attorney General Jeff Sessions travels to Colombia to participate in the Trilateral Summit Against Transnational Organized Crime. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson holds a conference call at 10 a.m. to announce the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

CONGRESS: The House meets at noon, with the agenda including consideration of the “Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act of 2017, Rules Committee Print,” and postponed suspension votes on the “Enhancing Veteran Care Act” and “condemning ethnic cleansing of the Rohingya” in Burma. A final tax bill is being worked out by lawmakers in a House-Senate conference committee on tax legislation. Follow our updates on the tax debate here.

SUPREME COURT: The court hears arguments at 10 a.m.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS: ADP reports the number of jobs private employers added in November at 8:15 a.m. The Labor Department releases revised third-quarter productivity data at 8:30 a.m.


In a profile of Vice President Mike Pence and his relationship with religious conservatives, McKay Coppins of The Atlantic writes: “In Pence, Trump has found an obedient deputy whose willingness to suffer indignity and humiliation at the pleasure of the president appears boundless….Meanwhile, Pence’s presence in the White House has been a boon for the religious right.”

“It is almost impossible to see the logic of the Trump administration’s expected recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and possibly moving the U.S. embassy to Israel there—before it even unveils what’s certain to be a controversial plan for Middle East peace, which will be tough enough to sell,” writes Shibley Telhami of the Brookings Institution.

Britain’s Sky News reports: “A terror plot to assassinate Prime Minister Theresa May has been foiled, Sky sources have confirmed.”


28.8%: In all, 28.8% of U.S. home sales this year have been all-cash transactions, according to Attom Data Solutions.

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South Korea allocates budget for ‘decapitation unit’ targeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un

December 6, 2017

 This photo was released by the North Korean Central

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un celebrating the launch of the Hwasong-15 ICBM, on Nov 29, 2017. South Korea has earmarked additional funds for a special warfare unit that is targeting the North Korean leader for assassination. PHOTO: AFP/KCNA 

SEOUL (THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) – The South Korean government has allocated its budget for a “decapitation unit” for the first time to enhance the special warfare capability targeting North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un, Seoul’s defence ministry said Wednesday (Dec 6).

According to the ministry budget report, some 340 million won (S$420,000) was earmarked for the 2018 budget plan to improve the capabilities of the special warfare unit to conduct the clandestine assassination operation on North Korea’s leader.

“The money will be spent on purchasing equipment for the special forces,” said an official from the defence ministry under the customary condition of anonymity. “The equipment includes a suicide drone, surveillance drone and grenade machine gun.”

The ministry said they will carry out the purchasing plan next year and increase the amount of budget for the decapitation unit accordingly. A total of 26 billion won will be spent to enhance the unit’s warfighting capability, the official said.

South Korean military launched a brigade-level “decapitation unit” on Dec 1. The unit is reported to include about 1,000 special warfare forces tasked with neutralizing North Korea’s wartime command-and-control system by eliminating Kim and other top officials.

Chinese newspaper publishes nuclear war safety tips

December 6, 2017


© KCNA via KNS/AFP | Last week Pyongyang fired what it said was a new intercontinental ballistic missile

A state-run newspaper in a Chinese province bordering North Korea published a list of tips on Wednesday for how civilians can protect themselves in the event of a nuclear attack.

The apocalyptic article comes as tensions soar on the Korean Peninsula over Pyongyang’s nuclear ambitions.

A full-page illustrated advisory in the Jilin Daily, an official publication of the northeast province, instructed readers to close their doors and windows and thoroughly wash their belongings to minimise radioactive impact.

“Modern warfare is three-dimensional, and intercontinental missiles could hit any corner of the world,” the newspaper said.

While the publication does not explicitly mention North Korea, Jilin was one of the Chinese provinces where people reported feeling tremors after Pyongyang conducted a powerful nuclear test this September.

Last week Pyongyang fired an intercontinental ballistic missile that it said could hit anywhere on the US mainland.

In China, the authoritarian regime’s largest trade partner and sole major diplomatic ally, concern has grown in recent months that North Korea’s expanding weapons programme will cause residual damage along the border.

China’s environmental protection ministry performed eight days of emergency monitoring following the September blast, which the North claimed was the successful detonation of a hydrogen bomb.

Authorities concluded that radiation levels remained normal in the four provinces where tests were done, including Jilin.

In something reminiscent of the Cold War era, the Jilin Daily used a colourful comic Wednesday to tell readers to wear masks and take iodine tablets to prevent radioactive iodine from collecting in their thyroid glands.

To remove radioactive contamination on the body, one should vigorously wash garments and swab the ears, nose and mouth, the paper advised.

Xu Yucheng, a deputy director for Jilin’s Civil Air Defense Office, told the Beijing News that the newspaper’s goal was to “strengthen national defense education”.

Compared to Japan and other developed countries, Xu said, the public education on “ordinary national defense” in China is “still not sufficient”.

An editorial in the Global Times, a state-run nationalistic tabloid, sought to calm what it called a “storm of conjecture” that the nuclear attack advisory has aroused on Chinese social media.

While conflict on the Korean peninsula is not unavoidable, the editorial said, “China must prepare for the worst. Both the country and its people should heighten vigilance.”

Beijing has backed a slew of sanctions on Pyongyang that include bans on imports of North Korean coal, iron ore and seafood.

But the Chinese government fears taking any tougher action could cause the regime to collapse, triggering a refugee crisis across its border with the North and eliminating a strategic buffer separating China from the US military in South Korea.

Beijing has proposed that the North suspend missile and nuclear tests in exchange for a suspension of US-South Korean military exercises, a suggestion Washington has repeatedly rejected.

U.N., in a Diplomatic Bid, Sends a Top Official to North Korea

December 4, 2017

Jeffrey Feltman to spend three days meeting senior regime officials

United Nations under-secretary-general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman attends a news conference in Bogota on Nov. 15, 2017. (Raul Arboleda/AFP/Getty Images)

UNITED NATIONS—The United Nations’ chief diplomat will travel to North Korea on Tuesday for political talks, according to the U.N., in a rare, high-level visit by the world body.

Jeffrey Feltman, undersecretary general for political affairs, will be in Pyongyang for three days meeting senior regime officials on what the U.N. described as a wide ranging “policy dialogue” at the invitation of North Korea.
The Washington Post

Jeffrey Feltman, a senior official at the United Nations and a former U.S. diplomat, will visit North Korea for four days, the United Nations announced Monday.

Starting Tuesday, Feltman will meet a number of North Korean officials, including foreign minister Ri Yong Ho, as well as foreign diplomats and U.N. staff, spokeswoman Eri Kaneko said. The trip was arranged after the United Nations received an invitation from North Korea, the U.N. department of political affairs wrote on Twitter.

As under-secretary-general for political affairs, Feltman has the equivalent diplomatic rank of a national cabinet minister and is responsible for monitoring and assessing global developments around the world for the United Nations. Visits by U.N. officials of this rank to North Korea are rare but not unheard of: The last similar visit was in 2010, when Feltman’s predecessor B. Lynn Pascoe visited the country.

However, this trip comes at a particularly tense time. Over the past year North Korea has made rapid advancements with its weapons program, testing multiple ballistic missiles and a nuclear weapon.  After the country’s most recent missile test on Nov. 29, experts suggested North Korea may be able to hit Washington. Kim Jong Un later said North Korea had “finally realized the great historic cause of completing the state nuclear force,” state media reported.